Pocket gardens a good way to learn what grows

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 23, 2014

SALISBURY — The Extension Master Gardener Volunteer Pocket Garden Project at the Agricultural Center on Old Concord Road is now almost two years old and the plantings are beginning to mature, providing a show of colors and textures for urban gardeners.
The small display gardens are termed “pocket gardens” in an effort to demonstrate which plant materials adapt well to small urban plantings in Rowan County.
Herbaceous and woody perennials are maintained by Master Gardener Volunteers in the Sensory Garden and other pocket gardens located at the Agriculture Center. Some of the test plants and shrubs were heavily damaged during our unusually cold winter weather. This is part of the test and is to be expected with new plant introductions.
One of the staples in the Sensory Garden is a tree-form knock out rose. Laden with beautiful blooms, the showy rose has survived heat, excessive rainfall and a cold winter without benefit of protective sprays. Master Gardener Volunteers’ correct pruning preserves and enhances the rose as a major focal point of the planting. Go to http://guilford.ces.ncsu.edu/2013/02/200515/ for more information about how to grow this rose.
The Contorted Filbert (Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick) also provides an eye-catching appeal as a standalone specimen plant with its unusual twisted limbs and branches. Few winter plants can match its interesting contorted appearance. The plant also has a display of interesting dangling catkins in the summer, however, the contortion of the stems provide the greatest interest.
The Southern Living test garden consists of new introductions of woody-stemmed ornamentals. These were planted last year and most survived the winter cold. Gardenia and loropetalem cultivars seemed to be the hardest hit with some cultivars succumbing to freezing temperatures. The Encore azaleas did much better than expected with little or no winter damage. Encore azaleas should be blooming throughout the summer and into the fall. Dwarf crepe myrtle cultivars also fared well with the cold winter. These extremely dwarf plants grow to a height of 3 feet and are now laden for summer bloom.
Two new additions the Southern Living Garden, Rising Sun and Lavender Twist, are new redbud selections that are sure to draw you to the garden. Rising Sun is a redbud with distinctively yellow highlighted leaves while the Lavender Twist is a weeping form redbud cultivar. Both add shape and texture to the demonstration located on the side of the building.
The pocket gardens also include a Pollinator Garden, plants that attract pollinating insects, the Sloop Garden and a raised bed vegetable demonstration garden study. Future plans are to add a tree fruit and small fruit gardens this fall. The pocket gardens are designed as an ongoing demonstration for newly released plant materials and planting practices. It’s best to view at all seasons to determine if these will have a place in your landscape.
Darrell Blackwelder is the county Extension director with horticulture responsibilities with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service in Rowan County.